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Published September 15, 2007 | Published
Journal Article Open

Active tuning of photonic device characteristics during operation by ferroelectric domain switching


Ferroelectrics have many unusual properties. Two properties that are often exploited are first, their complex, nonlinear optical response and second, their strong nonlinear coupling between electromagnetic and mechanical fields through the domain patterns or microstructure. The former has led to the use of ferroelectrics in optical devices and the latter is used in ferroelectric sensors and actuators. We show the feasibility of using these properties together in nanoscale photonic devices. The electromechanical coupling allows us to change the domain patterns or microstructure. This in turn changes the optical characteristics. Together, these could provide photonic devices with tunable properties. We present calculations for two model devices. First, in a photonic crystal consisting of a triangular lattice of air holes in barium titanate, we find the change in the band structure when the domains are switched. The change is significant compared to the frequency spread of currently available high-quality light sources and may provide a strategy for optical switching. Second, we show that periodically poled 90° domain patterns, despite their complex geometry, do not cause dispersion or have band gaps. Hence, they may provide an alternative to the antiparallel domains that are usually used in quasiphase matching and allow for tunable higher-harmonic generation.

Additional Information

© 2007 American Institute of Physics. (Received 20 June 2007; accepted 21 July 2007; published online 18 September 2007) We thank Harry A. Atwater, Demetri Psaltis, and Axel Scherer for useful discussions. This work is supported in part by the NSF Center for the Science and Engineering of Materials (DMR-0520565).

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